New app connects Uber rides

MICHAEL RIETMULDER | Updated 11/14/2012

The technology company helps Twin Citians hook up (with a car service).

Bar hoppers (or really anyone who needs a cab) have a stylish new way of cavorting around the metro. Since its official Twin Cities launch in October, Uber ( has been linking independent black-car drivers with local customers via its iPhone/Android app.

“We think we bring a lot of value to the Twin Cities,” said Allen Penn, Uber MSP’s acting general manager who also heads the Chicago branch. “They’re great cities but the transportation isn’t always amazing.”

Technically a technology company and not a car service, Uber contracts with licensed drivers who want to make additional runs in their downtime. The app allows users to see a map with the drivers closest to their location and book their trip directly. Since Uber stores its users’ credit card information, no money exchanges hands at the end of the ride (tip included), with a minimum $12 fare.

Penn said riding with Uber, which operates in about 20 cities, costs roughly 40 percent more than taking a standard cab, but says it’s worth the convenience and added level of service (not to mention the rent-a-baller status of rolling in a Town Car).

Uber hinges on mutual accountability, Penn said, with a rating system in place for both its drivers and customers. Take the long way to rack up the fare? Your score plummets. Puke in the car? You might get blacklisted.

“We’re sort of changing the industry for the better, we think,” Penn said.

[Photo: Renee Jones Schneider]